Focal an Lae #116
The Word of the Day in Irish

Word: geis (GEHSH) [g′es′]

Meaning: geis = taboo; prohibition; spell, enchantment


The “geis” (plural “geasa”) is a common plot device in early Irish literature, and whether observed or broken, it typically leads to tragedy. Fearghas Mac Róigh was under geis never to refuse an invitation to a feast. The king took advantage of this to detain him on his way to Emhain Macha, so that Deirdre and the Sons of Uisneach were without his protection and the king’s men were able to fall on them with impunity. Cú Chulainn was under one geis never to refuse hospitality and under another never to eat dog meat. Observing the former, he violated the latter, and his death followed shortly.

History: Old Irish “geis” is related to the verb “guidid” (pray) [see the previous Focal, #115], whose 3rd singular subjunctive form, for example, is “geis”.

Scottish Gaelic: geas

2008-06-19 CPD